Quick, what profession do you admire most for its honesty and ethics? If you said college teacher, you're probably looking for a good grade. If you said police officer, you probably haven't been stopped recently. If you said Congress member, you're dreaming. If you said clergy member, you're praying. If you said chiropractor, you probably are one. If you said journalist, you definitely are one. And if you said nurse, you are correct. Once again nursing came out atop the Gallup Poll of admired professions, always a revealing snapshot of popular opinion as a year ends.
Four of the last five years, nurses, despite occasional murderous ones, have been most admired (83%); the only exception was 2001 when 9/11 vaulted firefighters to the top. Trailing in this poll of 1,004 humans were veterinarians and doctors, both at 68%, followed by pharmacists (67%), dentists (61%) and engineers, police officers and college teachers, all at 59%. Despite continued scandals among some, the clergy this year moved up four points to 56%.
Psychiatrists trail badly at 38%. Bankers (35%) beat out chiropractors (31%). But governors (26%) topped journalists, who are always writing about them and slipped to 25% this year after some of their own scandals. Still, senators were lower (20%), followed by business executives (18%), Congress members (17%), lawyers (16%) and stockbrokers (15%). Ad folks tied insurance salespeople at 12%, followed by HMO managers (11%) and, last and least, car salespeople at 7%.
What does all this mean? First, it shows the enduring value of once having worn a neat white hat at work. Second, Americans like people who hand out drugs. Third, they tend to admire most the professionals seen as caring and helping them most in time of need, although they still don't pay nurses as much as they admire them. It means Americans have grown suspicious of those who ask a lot of questions: lawyers, police, journalists. And it means people who toil in showrooms talking fast and wearing large jewelry aren't any more popular than last year's models.
The national poll also raises intriguing questions. Would vets still score so highly if animals were polled about people in white coats who smell funny and carry large needles? Are bankers (at 35%) earning sufficient return on their occupational investments? Did dentists drilling mouths somehow polish the results in exchange for free root canals? Will ad men plan a new PR campaign to salvage their reputations? How do psychiatrists really feel about being respected the least of all medical professionals? And what role did their reserved fathers and absent working mothers play in this lack of respect?
Finally, a suggestion: Maybe next year the pollsters could include pollsters.